Room At The Inn
Monday. I did wander down Broadway to 14th Street at noon to watch a very long parade of primarily Hispanic folks demonstrating in favor of naturalization, now that they've been living and working here in the millions for so many years. Lots of people, lots of signs. I'm surprised, however, at the intensity of feeling I'm seeing around me on the question.
My own limited understanding is we've been allowing employers in our country to hire undocumented workers without penalty for years. I worked in the wine business in the 80's and we used undocumented vineyard workers. Vineyard work paid better than others, something like twice the going rate (I was the finance guy, so I knew the numbers), as we had to have people with wine grape skills that demanded a premium, but we were also aware the INS wasn't going to hassle us for not checking documents. Our vineyard workers paid a price, but we sat back comfortably without penalty and hired any necessary replacements.
This has been the reality: when you don't enforce laws against hiring undocumented workers you're essentially making a statement it's OK to come over the border (less any who die crossing the desert) and now that they've lived and worked here for decades, many with children who were born here and are therefore themselves US citizens, well, you're making the statement (wink! wink!) you're wanted. Fucked over, but wanted. Whatever your position, I don't think you deport 12 million people without problems. Real problems. Bush is right on the issue (yes, it hurts me to say it) but all he's doing is stating the obvious. (I wish he had a broader familiarity with the obvious.)
It's a touchy issue. I have people I work with who seem genuinely angry we're not tracking people down and shipping them back to wherever, almost as if they weren't talking about human beings but arguing some philosophical proposition in a classroom. I haven't come to a conclusion on the question of how tight we need to keep the border, but generally I'd prefer to do what's necessary to get your average terrorist to check in his or her thermo-nuke with the local sheriff when entering. Of course they're not going to walk in over the desert pretending to pick lettuce, what with all the airplanes and container ships around that accept Master Card. One thermo-nuke and this discussion goes out the window, of course, so maybe we're just treading water. Still, crack down on employers and you don't have to build an American-Berlin wall with all the crappy psychological side effects. There should be a workable compromise where we would get serious about regulating the border (a guest worker program, going after the employers, helping Mexico to get its act together) and give those who are already here a reasonable track to citizenship.
Do you really think anybody wants to read that?
No, but sometimes I have to write it. Pass the sake.